Densho Digital Archive
Densho Digital Archive Collection
Title: Molly Enta Kitajima Interview
Narrator: Molly Enta Kitajima
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: San Jose, California
Date: March 20, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-kmolly-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And so instead of going there, you went to your own little house, or farm.

MK: Yes, we went to a farm, and this farm was a hundred acres of sugar beets.

TI: And who owned the land?

MK: This Dutch man called Boone.

TI: And so what was the arrangement, that you would be on this farm, and then what would you do?

MK: We would thin the beets, and then we have to weed the beets, weed the thing. And they grew so fast. We only weeded one time and before you know it, all the leaves took over and it was just like one, forest like. And we didn't have to weed anymore, so we just waited for the, and the beets kept getting bigger and bigger every day, and they're like this. But the machine comes and they dig up row by row, and then you have to top 'em. And you're lifting, you have a machete and you lift up the beets, and you cut off the top and then load it onto a big truck. And for a woman, when you pick it up, and if you miss it the one time you can hardly get it up the next time. At night, when you come in and we go to sleep, we can't hardly lift our hands. It is, it is so sore. Next morning you get up, do the same thing. And that's one month, and if you don't get all those beets on the truck and out, you don't get paid. So once, if the frost gets in there and it snows in, they pay you by the tonnage, so... but the one thing about that is that they don't do nothing else.

TI: With the land. You mean, so --

MK: That's it. And so in the, my mother, she got a little patch of land and she grows our own food, tomatoes, whatever it is, spinach, whatever. And then she found out that we could eat the sugar beet tops, so she goes and picks all the sugar beets and we ate that every other day, I think. I mean, I felt like we ate it every day, but that's, but it was just like Swiss chard we ate. And so, but after we'd weed and then after, now we're waiting for harvest, there's all of, all of July and August and part of September, so all the men in the area are all gone to war, the husbands, hakujin husbands, so they would come and ask us to come and help their thrashing or whatever it is. So we would go, my three brothers and my sister and I, we would go and work at these fields. When they cut the wheat and then a binder comes, and then you have to stack 'em up so that they dry. Then you take teams of horses and you load it all on and then bring it in to the thrasher. So we learned how to, we never, ever did that kind of work. I ran a six horse team. Somebody has to do it. And they'd load up the wheat, the shafts of wheat on the back of that thing, and we'd take it to the thrasher. That's like a, like one month work. We never, ever got paid money.

TI: You didn't get paid?

MK: No. They all gave us a big side of bacon or...

TI: So they paid with you food and things.

MK: The barter time again.

TI: Barter. I see.

MK: But my mother said, "Oh my goodness sakes, that's wonderful. We get to eat meat." So we didn't have any money. Whatever we made, we got the money that we had.

TI: Now, did the government ever give you supplies to live on?

MK: No.

TI: So you're on your own.

MK: We were on our own.

TI: Now, did the government ever come to check up on you to make sure that you were there?

MK: No, but we better be there 'cause the RCMP, if you want to go and you got a toothache, you got to go to the closest telephone and be able to call the Commission and get a pass to go to the, get your, get dental work done.

TI: I see. So you're restricted to a certain place, unless...

MK: Oh yeah. And so, but we did, we did all kinds of work. I did, some farmer lady comes over and she wants me to help her with her housework, and I go over there, she gives me one chicken. And I'm coming home banging the chicken and my mother goes, "Oh, we get to eat meat." And I think, "Yeah, that's right." Otherwise we have to eat vegetables. And eggs, they give us a couple dozen of eggs for all day that we worked. But I guess that must've been worth fifty cents or something, I don't know. But it was, that's how we had to survive.

TI: But luckily, your family kind of knew how to do this kind of work. I mean, it's like if you're --

MK: If we didn't know we learned.

TI: Yeah, but you worked together as a team.

MK: Team.

TI: I remember thinking earlier how your dad would hire you out as a work team, all the kids.

MK: Right. Yeah.

TI: And now you and your brothers and your sister were kind of doing the same thing.

MK: That's right. I mean, we never, ever thrashed wheat or anything like that, but boy, we learned fast.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.